In the prairie province of Manitoba is a practitioner of good, a medicine woman who roams that part of the longitudinal center of Canada with her healing hands and tools of the trade always at the ready, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
She is Dr. Keri Hudson Reykdal, better known to television audiences in Canada as “Dr. Keri: Prairie Vet,” a television reality series on the Animal Planet. Dr. Keri’s clients are big and small, from the feline to the bovine, as well as her own reined cow horses.
A third season, set to begin airing late in 2019, was ordered after two well-received predecessors. Aspiring producers hope for an introduction to markets in the United States sooner than later, the show’s stakeholders all agree.
The show was the brainchild of one of Hudson Reykdal’s friends who works for Merit Motion Pictures.
“She lives in the city and was always intrigued by some of my Facebook posts about life as a country vet,” Hudson Reykdal said. “She pitched the idea several years ago. It took a while, but Animal Planet Canada picked it up.”
The patients and the viewer, not the camera, are always the priority. She looks at the camera, she said, as if it were a vet student.
With the show, she hopes to educate her audience about the lives of farmers and ranchers, and the importance of animal welfare. Important, too, is giving viewers a better understanding of diseases and what they can do to protect their pets.
Make no mistake — by any standard, Hudson Reykdal has done Claude Bourgelat, the pioneer Frenchman who gained renown in world history as the founder of veterinary medicine in the 1760s, proud.
She has seen it all in her 20 years on the job. Talk to her long enough and ask the right questions, you’ll discover that time she encountered a patient, an older Labrador, with an infected, distended uterus full of pus.
The condition proved a challenge. The intrepid Hudson Reykdal donned her doctor’s superhero cape, dipped into her bag of instruments and performed the sorcery of veterinary medicine.
“As I was removing the uterus, it was so full of pus, it burst. There was pus everywhere, it was horrible,” she recalled.
So much for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or supper or some such. But the reward was worth every grody second. The patient mended and lived to see many more, fulfilling dog days.
With the territory come some brutally cold days, such as preg-checking cows in minus-40 degrees.
“Winter in the Prairies is certainly not for the meek.”
Or for the sheared.
The 37-year-old is married but without the “kids gene.” She instead has dogs, cats and horses.
“They keep me busy,” Hudson Reykdal said, “and when I forget to feed them, no one will call social services.”
Ah, a sense of humor — an essential quality, especially for this type of work.
“Mostly kidding,” she added, presumably with the wink that often accompanies good sarcasm.
In fact, she was totally kidding, of course. Hudson Reykdal lives in the spirit of St. Francis, the best friend of animals.
There are many stories, but as one goes, Francis tamed a man-eating wolf that had terrorized Gubbio, an ancient town of Italy.
“Come to me, Brother Wolf. In the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt anyone.” The wolf, at that very moment, lay down at Francis’ feet. Francis asked the wolf to make a pledge of peace, and as Francis extended his hand, so the wolf extended its front paw and placed it in Francis’ hand, soon becoming a compliant and passive resident of the city.
It wasn’t birds or wolves, but rather the horse that was the root of Hudson Reykdal’s love of the animal kingdom. She took riding lessons in her youth but never owned one until she was in her second year of vet school.
She began competing in reined cow horse in 2009, purchasing her first horse from Dale Clearwater in Hanley, Saskatchewan.
“He helped me learn about the sport,” Hudson Reykdal said. “I have really enjoyed being a part of the NRCHA [National Reined Cow Horse Association] community. The people are wonderful and the horses are amazingly talented.”
Hudson Reykdal has accumulated more than $74,000 in earnings, according to Equi-stat, much of it on Won Smart Wolf.
Being horse crazy is a lifelong addiction, she said. Even her mother caught the bug. At 70, she bought her first horse, one Hudson Reykdal sold her. “Chance” is a CD Lights mare purchased as a futurity prospect who didn’t quite make it. Well trained, she was perfect for a beginner.
Hudson Reykdal’s first horse was “Rio,” a Morgan cross gelding who shared in so many of life’s experiences with her owner. She recently had to put him down at 27 years old.
“He was a firecracker and without him, who knows what path my life may have taken,” Hudson Reykdal said. “When I had just gotten him, I was working for a behavioral scientist at the vet school. One weekend, Rio and I went with a local family to a 4-H pleasure show. Being new to horses and their penchant for finding ways to hurt themselves, I left the escape door open on the trailer when we got to the fairground.
“Rio tried to exit, saddle and all. He, of course, got hung up and that was my first experience with how handy cowboys and ranchers are. They quickly came to the aid of myself and Rio, and got us quickly out of a wreck. I seem to always learn things the hard way.”
Though she didn’t get the kid’s gene, Hudson Reykhal did get the vocation gene. It’s in the bloodlines. Hudson Reykdal’s father was a small animal vet. He had a house-call business. Hudson Reykdal was going on calls with her father as young as 5 years old. She was exposed to veterinary medicine before she could read “See Spot run.”
The long hours and the sometimes-exhausting work is all worth it.
A very wise man once testified: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
“I don’t have kids, so it makes balancing work and home easier,” she said. “Plus, my husband is a farmer and rancher with 600 head of cattle. He runs a cow/calf operation, a family farm. So he is also busy all the time. My dogs get to come with me to work most days. And during the summer, I try to make time for riding my horses.”
It’s a life lived to its fullest and most compassionate.